UK Developing Reusable Hypersonic Tech

British aerospace engineers are collaborating to develop hypersonic technology that delivers payloads at extended ranges and returns to be reused.

The project was announced at the 2022 Farnborough International Airshow that began earlier this week.

A model of the reusable aerial vehicle — nearly the size of a Hawk trainer jet — was unveiled during the aerospace exhibition.                                          

Experts from Rolls-Royce, the Royal Air Force, the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and engineering firm Reaction Engines are teaming up in the hypersonic tech program.

Work for the project has reportedly begun, with the technology demonstrator scheduled to fly and undergo trials “within this decade.”

Critical Steps

According to Rolls-Royce, the Hypersonic Air Vehicle Experimental (HVX) program will help make the UK a leader in reusable hypersonic air systems.

It includes the rapid development of novel air-breathing propulsion architectures and advanced vehicle concepts.

Mark Thomas of Reaction Engines further noted that an innovative thermal management system is a key component of the project since the faster a vehicle goes, “the hotter it gets.”

The HVX program will also undertake a full-scale experimental engine test to determine if the vehicle can deliver payloads at hypersonic speed.

“HVX’s immediate objective is to rapidly mature technologies which can deliver a step-change reduction in the cost of developing a reusable high-Mach/hypersonic air vehicle,” the company states.

Keeping Up in Hypersonic Race

The UK’s move to develop reusable hypersonic technology comes as China, Russia, and the US continue to produce state-of-the-art missiles capable of traveling at many times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic capability is crucial in making military weapons and vehicles difficult to track and shoot down.

“One of the things we believe will have value in our future way of war-fighting, changing the way we fight, is in reusable hypersonics,” British Air Vice-Marshal Linc Taylor was quoted as saying.

“At the moment, we’re exploring the technologies. If they do come to fruition, then we’ll develop it,” he added.

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